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Showing posts from May, 2018
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Gender, Race and Dungeons and Dragons



The elephant is in the room. The revival of all things D&D has been an invigorating blast in the last year or so, and it is heralding a wave of creative imagination from people of all backgrounds. D&D is not just the realm of geeky straight white boys, it has opened up to everyone.

This is an unabashedly good thing, but it’s just a start.

What has been percolating on the edges of the D&D Renaissance is a realization that the game, created by (I presume) straight white men, was a product of its time, and as a result will have “baked in” gender and race assumptions that might be worth exploration.


I agree with this, and I welcome the exploration. Some of it is already apparent to me. Despite the presence of monsters, Dungeons and Dragons has people in it too, and how those people were depicted reflected the sensibilities of the time. Settings like Greyhawk may have had a large dose of Eurocentrism, but settings like Al-Quadim and Kara-Tur s…
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D&D as Genre Emulation I want to start a series of posts talking about first edition Dungeons and Dragons as the “ur-game”, or the game to be used in multiple genre’s or settings. Think of GURPS, one role playing system that encompasses multiple game settings or themes. People think of D&D as exclusively a fantasy game, but it is so much more than that.
D&D has an image as being somewhat “medieval” English/Germanic, knights and wizards and all that. The game emerged from medieval wargaming roots in a game called Chainmail, so the connection is pretty intuitive. The genre, essentially medieval warfare with magic grafted on top, is often referred to
as “high-fantasy”,think Tolkien. Harry Potter has purloined some of that mystique and wrapped it up in postwar English class consciousness, but the dressing is still there (suits of armor and such at Hogwarts, dragons, elves, etc.) for a medieval setting. There is a line for some people from Tolkien to D&D, call it the “high fan…
Describing the World

D&D is a game meant to simulate or model something. Original D&D was based off a wargame called Chain Mail, and wargames were meant to model, somewhat imperfectly, medieval combat between soldiers, cavalry and siege engines. D&D added magic and monsters to the mix, so the “realistic simulation” was abandoned in favor of simulation of pulp novels and fantasy literature.
You might not know it with all of the setting specific games like Lankhmar, Conan, Call of Cthulu and Middle Earth Role Playing out there, but D&D was meant to emulate them all.

In any simulation there will be a mismatch between what the player knows and what the player’s character knows. One of the most obvious places where this is an issue is the question of what the character experiences. Your character sees things, you only “see” what your character sees when your DM describes things to you or shows you a picture.
Your character would obviously get a lot more out of the environment…